Naylor Brothers Set To Play a Big Part in Guardians’ Future

The Cleveland Guardians boast three Canadians on their squad, led by Mississauga, Ont. products Josh and Bo Naylor.

Josh Naylor and Bo Naylor of the Cleveland Guardians celebrate the team's 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Progressive Field.
CLEVELAND, OHIO - JULY 22: Josh Naylor #22 and Bo Naylor #23 of the Cleveland Guardians celebrate the team's 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Progressive Field on July 22, 2023 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

Currently, 15 players suiting up across the major leagues call Canada home, with the Cleveland Guardians hosting three of those players. Reliever Cade Smith made his MLB debut this season after a strong spring, and he joins the Naylor brothers, Bo and Josh, to round out the Canucks on the squad.

Hailing from Mississauga, Ontario, Bo and Josh had similar paths to professional baseball.

Both brothers suited up for the Ontario Blue Jays travel ball team, played for the Junior National Team, and planned to attend a post-secondary program in Texas (Bo at Texas A&M, Josh at Texas Tech) before they were selected in the first round of their respective draft years and turned pro.

The Marlins took Josh 12th overall in 2015, while Cleveland drafted Bo 29th overall three years later.

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Although the brothers were drafted by separate teams, two different trades saw Josh make his way to the Guardians in 2020. Bo worked his way up the minor league ladder and joined his brother in Cleveland in 2022, enjoying a cup of coffee at the end of the year. He earned his permanent spot on the big league team the following season.

The Naylors aren’t the first brothers to play for the same team at the big league level, but they could be one of the most exciting fraternal pairings in a long time. Looking ahead to the Guardians’ future, it is safe to say both are likely to play a big part for the small market club.

Josh Naylor, the elder sibling, has become a key member of the Guardians lineup over the past few years. Since he was traded from San Diego to Cleveland at the 2020 trade deadline, the left-handed batter owns a .271/.329/.456 slash line with 56 home runs through 379 games.

A nasty ankle fracture limited him to just 69 games in 2021, but since the 2022 campaign, he owns a 130 OPS+ and a .478 slugging percentage while putting forth 5.6 fWAR.

On the field, the elder Naylor spent some of his early Guardians tenure in right field but has become the club’s go-to first baseman since 2022. He has also sprinkled in some starts in the DH role as well.

Over the past three years, Josh ranks fourth on the squad in fWAR, and for his efforts last season, he earned the Tip O’Neill Award as the top Canadian baseball player of the year, as awarded by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

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A power hitter by trade, he currently sits above the 85th percentile in xSLG (.529), xBA (.292), and xwOBA (.376). His average exit velocity ranks in the 82nd percentile at 91.3 MPH.

The Canuck also possesses a keen eye at the plate, sitting in the 95th percentile with his 13.5% strikeout rate, with 20 walks on the season compared to just 26 punchouts. He currently leads the Guardians in home runs (12) and is tied with Andrés Giménez for the lead in doubles (8). Naylor ranks in the top five across nearly every statistical category, alongside Gimenez, Jose Ramírez, and Steven Kwan.

Meanwhile, Bo Naylor has faced a bit more of an adjustment period as he acclimates to the MLB stage. He spent some time in Triple-A last season (he didn’t make the Opening Day roster) and rode the options bus between Cleveland and Columbus a couple of times throughout the campaign.

Since June 17, 2023, the second Naylor brother has been with the big league squad and worked in tandem with a host of different catchers, most recently Austin Hedges and David Fry in 2024.

At the plate, Bo owns a .171/.254/.265 slash line through 130 plate appearances this season. That’s good for a .519 OPS. Yet last season, the Mississauga product put forward a .339 OBP and a .809 OPS through 230 plate appearances at the big league level, adding 11 home runs (including his first MLB homer) and 32 RBIs.

Naylor has been the Guardians’ go-to option behind the dish this season, where the 24-year-old owns a +2 fielding run value (per Baseball Savant) and sits in the 98th percentile with his +3 framing value. He owns a .986 fielding percentage on the season and has thrown out seven baserunners for a 25.9% caught-stealing rate. His defense has been impressive, to say the least.

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Funnily enough, both brothers hit a home run in the same inning back on April 10, which just so happens to be National Siblings Day in the United States and Canada. They accomplished the same feat last year as well, becoming the first siblings in Cleveland franchise history to homer in the same inning.

Josh isn’t free agent eligible until after the 2026 season, while Bo is still under pre-arbitration, a key fact for an organization that tends to keep a close eye on the payroll and player salaries. The Guardians ran payrolls well above $100 million from 2017-19, but since 2021, they have sat toward the bottom of the pack in terms of total payroll.

With that in mind, it is worth considering that the team may not extend Josh past his arbitration years, but that doesn’t appear to be a major topic of conversation just yet – at least not in the rumor mill.

The Guardians had an opportunity to add the youngest brother, Myles Naylor, during the MLB Draft last year, but they opted for catcher Ralphy Velazquez with the 23rd overall pick. Naylor was gone before the Guardians stepped back to the podium, going 39th overall to the Oakland Athletics.

He joins his cousin Denzel Clarke in the A’s organization, who currently suits up for their Double-A affiliate.

For now, a pair of Canucks take the field regularly for the Guardians organization, while Cade Smith has been a pleasant surprise out of the bullpen.

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The Guardians are sitting first in a hotly contested AL Central after 48 games, and the Naylor brothers have played a key role in the team’s early season success. They should contribute even more before the season’s end – especially if Bo Naylor can find a groove at the plate.